Tai is wearing the Paridaez Hummingbird as a scarf
We took a bit of a hiatus from our Monday Maven series, but who else to get inspired by, but the one and only Tai Jimenez. Tai was a principal dancer in the Dance Theater of Harlem, as well as the Boston Ballet. She was also a guest artist in the New York City Ballet and other companies across the country before making her Broadway debut. She was also featured on the Academy Awards and in Prince's Rave Unto the Year 2000. Tai acted across from Patrick Swayze in the the film One Last Dance. She now teaches at both the Boston Conservatory and Harvard University. She has been an inspiration to some of the top dancers today, most notably, ballerina rock star Misty Copeland. Misty mentioned Tai as an inspiration and groundbreaking black female dancer who paved the way for future dancers like Misty. Tai has a truly beautiful presence and magical aura. It's no wonder why she experienced such immense success!
Without further adieu Tai Jimenez...
AD: Please explain who you are and what you do.
TJ: My name is Tai Jimenez. I am a mother, dancer, choreographer, teacher and blogger.
AD: Where are you from originally?
TJ: I am from Queens, New York
AD: Where did your motivation to pursue your passion originate?
TJ: Dancing was always, from the time I was very young, innate in me. It was something I did as a natural form of expression and I remember dancing whether anyone was watching or not. Eventually, others noticed and insisted my mother enroll me in lessons. I heard a calling to dance before I had any expose to seeing it on television or on stage and this was many years before youtube. Professional dance was not so easily accessible as it is today.
AD: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get where you are today?
TJ: My biggest obstacle was very poor self-esteem. I would go so far as to call it self-hatred. I always felt different and was afraid of not being accepted. I adopted an aloof attitude as a form of self-protection. I developed disordered eating, which, because of its secretive, shameful nature, further alienated me from others. It took me a long time to even open up to the idea of loving myself. Real self-love is not delusional. It doesn't mean you're great and happy with yourself all the time. It means you accept yourself, including your flaws, your limitations, your shadow, your beauty, your gifts and your power.
AD: What is a typical day like for you?
TJ: A typical day starts with getting myself ready, my two-year old ready and taking care of my dog before I can leave the house. It's no less than a miracle that I can make it to teach my morning ballet class on time. Lately, I've been trying to walk everywhere. It's great for cardio and easy on the earth. It's also a great way to clear your head and set your intentions for the day, or to just be with the Is-ness. I teach from 9-10:30 at the Boston Conservatory and then I'll walk back home or take a yoga class. I meditate. Read and sometimes write. And after the first two years of motherhood, with my daughter just recently attending pre-school, I find that I need some time to just Be and do nothing. I pick her up around 4 and then I have to teach another evening class at Harvard.
AD: Who's your favorite dancer and why?
TJ: I have so many favorite dancers of various disciplines, shapes and sizes. For ballet, one of my icons is Gelsey Kirkland. To me, she elevated the art form. Her expression and characterization were deeply investigated and authentic. Also, her footwork was sublime. In contemporary dance, lately I've been watching Shen Wei. His mastery of Chinese caligraphy has informed his movement. He moves with great fluidity and grace. It's hypnotic.
AD: What was your largest life lesson?
TJ: My largest life lesson has been to learn how to let go, to stop fighting, to flow, to be grateful for what arises and to stop beating myself up for the past.
AD: What’s your typical fitness routine?
TJ: My typical fitness routine consists of walking about 5 miles 3 x a week. Yoga practice 3 or 4 times a week, either in class or at home. I don't perform as much as I used to, but I still dance, usually at home a few times a week.
AD: What are your daily beauty rituals?
TJ: I'm not sure if this is a beauty ritual, but I love to take baths. Sometimes they are quite elaborate with candles, crystals, flowers, incense, music, etc. I do this at least 3 x a week.
AD: What's a go to place in your area?
TJ: One of my favorite places in Boston is The Museum of Fine Arts. My husband works there so I can go for free. I love seeing faces and objects from the past. And I love to be surrounded by beauty. I find it so inspiring. Our favorite restaurant is Myers and Chang on Washington Street in the South End. We also love the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown.
AD: Who inspires you more than anyone else in this world?
TJ: Spiritual teachers inspire me the most: Osho, Malidoma Some, Jane Robers/Seth, Martin Prechtel, Eckhart Tolle, Bashar, Ken Ludden, Deepak Chopra and others.
AD: How do versatile pieces make your life easier?
TJ: I need versatile pieces that will help me look pulled together while teaching and easily transition to meetings with students or to a lunch or dinner date.
AD: Are there any words of wisdom you'd like to leave with us?
TJ: I will leave you with an African proverb that Malidoma often quotes, "If you go forwards, you die. If you go backwards, you die. So go forwards and die."
Interview by Allison Daroie.